There were plenty of quality games to choose from this year, but also a few that, for whatever reason, perhaps didn't quite get the love they deserved. Perhaps they were barely marketed titles that dropped with little fanfare, or smaller curios that failed to garner much attention, perhaps they were overshadowed by bigger, louder titles, or were written off early due to faults and failures before eventually coming good.
Ladies and gents, these are the nominees for underdog of the year...
Assassin's Creed: Rogue
What we said: Assassin's Creed: Rogue is much better than Unity. But then it would be, what with it being an Arctic-set sequel to Black Flag that has you romping about the northern seas as a swagalicious Templar. Simply marvellous.
What we said: As cliché as it is to say, good things come to those who wait. With an expertly written narrative, a brilliantly realised location in Europolis, and subtly far-reaching choices to make even at this stage, Book One: Reborn is an excellent return to The Longest Journey saga. In fact, if this is reflective of the episodes to come, Dreamfall Chapters could end up being a masterclass in adventure gaming.
What we said: Dungeon Of The Endless is the best Real-Time Turn-Based Strategic 4X Tower Defence Sci-Fi Roguelike RPG hybrid you'll play this week. And easily one of the very best games you'll play this year. Absolutely unmissable.
What we said: Etrian Odyssey Untold is a class act. The sensational vintage exploration, manual mapping and gruelling combat of the DS original has been granted a new lease of life, reinvigorated by strong characters and a superb story that's engaging enough to satisfy yet never outstays its welcome. Atlus approached their remake with subtlety and restraint, resulting in a uniquely lovely package.
What we said: Jazzpunk is a wonderful blend of spy-spoof, exploratory adventure game that actively involves you in the jokes it tells. Inventive, stylish, and downright hilarious in places, it's basically the lovechild of a three-way between The Meaning of Life, The Naked Gun, and Thirty Flights of Loving. An utterly absurd treat.
What we said: Thief is nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe, you just have to set the game up to reflect the experience you're looking for. It's the fourth-best game to bear the Thief name, but it doesn't trample on Garrett's legacy as some might have predicted. The story is utter balls and the game as a whole isn't as cohesive as it could be, but when Thief remembers its name and has you working out the best way of breaking into a place and picking it clean, it does a damn fine job.
What we said: It couldn't hold on to its early audience, and it's been bad news since the first couple of months for Carbine, but WildStar is still a fast paced, entertaining, and thoroughly challenging MMO for genre veterans while being accessible for newcomers. With powerful and versatile customisation options, and content for almost everyone, it’s a game that doesn’t reinvent the MMO wheel, but is the logical culmination of all that is great with the genre, albeit one that ultimately couldn't keep it up beyond launch.
Winner: Dungeon of the Endless
Dungeon Of The Endless constantly surprises you. Pacing constantly switches between exploration, action, defence and strategy, with each run throwing up crazy new situations to deal with. What do you mean an EMP wiped out my towers? Ooh, a hipster scarf? Do I research a Tesla Tower Level 3 or a healing robot? Wait, does Sara Numas have a dark history with this escaped psychopath? Each run may throw you on the mercy of the random number generator (every once in a while an unexpected enemy wave will wipe you out and leave you spitting nails), but the solid ruleset and deep interlinked mechanics allow advanced players to constantly improve their skills and deepen their understanding of how the systems work with every failed attempt.
Dungeon Of The Endless is hard, of course. Absolutely, astonishingly, insanely difficult. But it's also a joy to fail, just to appreciate a completely unique and exciting mini-narrative of your very own, before jumping straight into another run.
What's your shout for most overlooked game of 2014?